The amount of work involved in a successful political campaign, especially a presidential campaign, is ridiculously immense. There is political strategy, social media, speech-writing, event-planning, grassroots campaigning, and much more to worry about. Campaigns can only afford so many staff members, and those staff members can only do so much. Volunteers are essential to a successful grassroots campaign.
One evening last week, we had a number of volunteers come into the office to make phone calls. I sat by a woman who was volunteering for an hour having just finished work for the day. I found out she lives in Manchester, has two kids who are out of college, and she moved here from Lesotho over thirty years ago. She also speaks French, so I (unsuccessfully) attempted to dust off my beginner French skills. After a short, limited conversation in French, I asked her what made her want to volunteer:
"I could give money, and I have given money. But money is such an impersonal thing. I want to do something more worthwhile. I want to talk face-to-face with voters. What is more valuable than my own time?"
I could not agree more. While money keeps campaigns up and running, volunteers are the lifeblood of any successful campaign. In fact, there are staff members hired for the sole purpose of recruiting and coordinating volunteers. Volunteering not only benefits campaigns, but it is a great learning experience for people of all ages. Good social skills are essential when talking to people on the phone or at their front door. Dealing with a few irritated individuals may be uncomfortable, but it is an essential skill to learn how to respectfully deal with those who disagree or may be unkind.
There can also be unexpected perks when volunteering. Last weekend at a large canvassing event for Hillary's campaign, we had over 500 people meet in a school gymnasium before going out in the community to knock on some doors. The mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, was giving a pep talk to the volunteers. I was standing behind the mayor holding a sign along with a few of my classmates. Suddenly I noticed people in the crowd turn their heads toward the door of the gym, and I followed their gaze. I saw a bright pink jacket and a blonde head of hair--Hillary Clinton herself walked into that gymnasium full of unsuspecting supporters. The crowd exploded, and I admit my hands started shaking a bit with excitement and surprise. I saw the faces of the crowd light up, and after she gave a great pep talk and thanked everyone for helping out with the campaign, there was a new energy flowing from the crowd of volunteers. Having gotten the chance to introduce myself and get a picture with her, I was especially ecstatic. Many of the volunteers had never seen Hillary in person, and they were more motivated than ever to volunteer their time.
For a major presidential candidate to take the time to stop by and surprise a group of supporters and volunteers when she could otherwise be off campaigning to win over undecided voters, it clearly demonstrates how appreciative candidates are of their volunteers. They know that every volunteer, no matter how little time they may be able to give, is doing meaningful work.
Every little bit helps, and you never know who you may run into while volunteering with a campaign.
---Levi Wick is a St. Olaf freshman from New Ulm, MN., majoring in Political Science. He is in New Hampshire as part of a St. Olaf political science class studying the presidential election.